As political parties have a tendency to divide rather than unify, governance in the Baha’i Faith is non-partisan owing to the strong emphasis placed by the Baha’i teachings on the principle of unity. The Bahá’í writings specifically encourage the election of individuals with recognized ability, maturity, experience, and humility, with due regard for factors such as age distribution, diversity, and gender. The whole emphasis of the Bahá’í electoral system is to bring forth leaders who possess qualities of selflessness, intellectual capacity, moral integrity, and wisdom. A focus on service is key.
Baha’i governing bodies make decisions using a special non-adversarial form of collective decision-making known as consultation. It builds unity of purpose by welcoming and encouraging the free expression of views, and by striving for consensus based on established principles. At a time when trust in government is eroding everywhere in the world, and when the electoral process in many nations has become discredited because of endemic corruption, this new model of governance serves as an antidote to apathy, alienation and despair.
One of the most intriguing aspects of this process is the absence of a prepared ballot—or of any system of nominations. Instead, every adult Bahá’í in the community is eligible for election to the Local Spiritual Assembly (the nine-member council in each locality that administers community affairs). On Election Day, after a period of prayer and meditation—and with due regard to the relevant guidance in the Baha’i scripture—each adult votes for the nine individuals that he or she feels are best qualified to serve as Assembly members.
“On the election day the friends must whole-heartedly participate in the elections, in unity and amity, turning their hearts to God, detached from all things but Him, seeking His guidance and supplicating His aid and bounty.”— Shoghi Effendi